21 June 2010

My Grandfathers Bannock Recipe

I was browsing through my Grandfather's cookbook last night and came across a recipe for a bread I had no experience with. So, I figured a little homework was in order. Now, for our friends in Canada this will probably be old news because, as I understand it, Bannock has been is a well known recipe for quite some time.

After a little Internet work and perusing a couple old cookbooks here's what I came up with. First, based on the info from the Internet it was clear that this is an excellent bread for the campsite and can be done in a Dutch oven (It's a bread recipe so, Duh! of course it can be done in a DO) or prepared and cooked in a cast iron skillet over an open camp fire. Since this is my first attempt at this recipe I tried it in my indoor kitchen first.

The following is from an old cookbook I have, Flatbreads & Flavors, A baker's Atlas, Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid, 1995, William Morrow and Company, New York.
"The original Bannock was a Scottish bread baked on a griddle and made from oatmeal, barley, or wheat. It probably came to North America, with the Hudson's Bay Company, as the company was the first to introduce wheat flour to the Northern parts of Canada. As flour sold by the company's trading posts gradually became a part of the local diet, so to did Bannock, but in a form not necessarily resembling it's plain Scottish ancestor (Scottish Oatcakes, similar but with slightly different ingredients and different cooking method - RNB). When berries were available, they went into the Bannock batter.When there was meat or fish, it was chopped up and included."

"Bannock is now made all across the north of Canada, in households and in hunting and fishing camps, by native peoples and newcomers alike.It's a quick and fuel efficient way to make bread, and almost foolproof, even when made over a campfire."

Well, for ol' Splatterdab, it was the "foolproof" part that intrigued me. In addition, although I have no specific evidence, my theory is that a recipe this simple and quick must have been a go-to bread for the chuck wagon coussies in the late 19th century. I'll keep looking for any chuck wagon versions of`the recipe.

So, here's the recipe and for this version I decided to add apricots rather than berries.

Apricot Bannock
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs baking powder
1 cup dried apricots - diced
1-1/2 cup water

Bring oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease skillet or DO. In bowel, mix dry ingredients, Add diced apricots. Make well in middle of dry ingredients, pour in water and stir quickly until mixed. Dough should be stiff but moist. transfer to DO and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

To bake over campfires or bottom heat source, use a cast iron skillet and cook over a medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes or until brown on bottom. Slide onto lid, flip over and bake until browned on other side. Remove and cool.

Where the cowboy coffee is always hot.

20 June 2010

Venture Outdoors Festival at Millcreek Township 19 JUN 2010

It was a great Saturday with weather that couldn't be better for some serious Dutch oven cooking. And, that's what was happenin' at Millcreek Park. I was representing IDOS and the Storm Mountain Dutch oven Chapter with Debbie Hair, the IDOS President, and one of our newest members, David Smith, a fellow Veteran. We did demos during the day and I gave a demo later that afternoon in the St. Marks Hospital Demo tent.

The Venture Outdoors Festival is a celebration of outdoor recreation. This unique festival is designed to increase awareness, participation, and appreciation for the many recreational opportunities available in Utah. This annual, free, family-friendly event features live music, recreation clinics, guest speakers, giveaways, creative children's activities, and great food all day long. The U.S. Army band was there playing some great music and they also set up a couple of rock climbing walls. And of course, dutch oven cookin' with ol' splatterdab.

In my demo I did a couple of things. First, I talked about how easy it is to get started with Dutch oven cooking by using gear that's inexpensive and readily available. And second, I demo'd an age old favorite among Dutch oven cooks - the Mountain Man Breakfast. I haven't met many DO cooks that haven't received rave reviews on whatever their version of the recipe is. In fact, from pot-to-pot my recipe will frequently change on the fly.

So, here's this post's recipe:

Mountain Man Breakfast for a 12” Dutch Oven
This variation on the Mountain Breakfast is from my friend Gary House, “The Outdoor Cook”
His web site is at: http://www.cooking-outdoors.com/

1 sausage log (I like Jimmy Deans Sage - RNB)
1 onion (chopped)
2-3 stalks green onion (chopped)
2-3 garlic cloves (chopped}
8-12 eggs (scrambled)
Several mushrooms (sliced)
1 bag shredded hash browns
1 bag “Sharp” chedder cheese (12oz)
Garlic salt
Parsley (dried)

Fry up sausage and onion. Add chopped garlic. Cook till sausage is almost done. Drain.
At this point you could fry up the potatoes till browned. Or throw in some pre-cooked red potatoes.
Add all of the other ingredients (Except cheese) and mix up real good. Cook for about 40 minutes until egg is done.
Rotate lid and pot in opposite directions every 10 minutes or so to eliminate hot spots (there are differing opinions on whether you need to rotate the lid and pot. Your call - RB).
Last 5 minutes add cheese to top to melt.

I use a 12″ Dutch oven with 8 coals on bottom and about 16 on top. You will use a lot more on bottom to fry up sausage so just dump the total amount on bottom to start then adjust to bake.

Where the cowboy coffee is always hot

15 June 2010

150th Anniversary of the Pony Express

Wow! Its been a while. I would like to say that there was some cataclysmic event that prevented me from posting but I suggest that you take a look at the clause in my blog title - "when I get around to it". OK, OK, I know laziness ain't no excuse but I've been busy with my new German Shorthaired  Pointer, and constant companion that I rescued, Homer, the chuck wagon wonder dog.

He and I wound up cooking, well he spent most of the time sunning himself and barking at other passing mutts, with some good friends - Waly, Debbie, and Cheesy Cindy (there's a story there so stand by). We were very happy that we were able to support the Sandy, Utah Museum and the Pony Express Association.

So, here's the deal. The riders from the Pony Express Association started out in Sacramento, CA and are retracing the Pony Express route on to St. Jo, MO. At several relay stations along the way are celebrations honoring and recalling the history of the Pony Express.

Ol' Splatterdab setup the chuck wagon, with the help of Waly, across the street from the museum. The fare for the public and the riders was Cowboy Beans, Dutch Oven Taters, thanks to Debbie, rolls, and varieties of dump cakes, thanks to Debbie and Cindy. So, what did Ol' Splatterdab do? Well, supervised of course. Can't leave women in the kitchen alone ya know (boy, am I gonna catch it for that one).

So, let's get to this blog post's recipe which is a variation on the beer bread recipe. This also brings us back to my explanation of my introduction of Cheesy Cindy. So, beer bread is a wet bread and the recipe is simple:
3 cups self rising flour
1 Tbs sugar
12 oz beer (not light)

Mix the ingredients well and pour into a greased 10" Dutch oven. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Now, Cindy had not made a beer bread before so I handed her the recipe to work from and I suggested that she could get creative and use an additional ingredient such as red crushed pepper, garlic or other spices. I think she made a batch of beer bread using those and others. Mind you, I encourage creativity but Cindy asked me a question about an ingredient I didn't expect. She said, "Where's the cheese". Now, have you ever heard of a chuck wagon cook carrying cheese. Ol' Splatterdab gave her a look like she had just asked me a question in some foreign language. "No, thar ain't no cheese in this camp. What aire ya thinkin'?" Well, Cindy bein' the creative creature she is found some cheese. I'm thinkin' she stole it from somewhere but anyway she put it in a batch that was near done that was made up using a brown ale from the Wasatch Brewery.  You can use a regular beer like Bud or Coors. But, the brown ale turned out a bread with a very interesting character and darker color. And I will admit, it was pretty dad-gum good. Thanks Cheesy Cindy.

All-in-all, it was a very good day. We all worked pretty hard and I really want to thank Debbie, Cindy, and Wally for their volunteering to help me and the Sandy Museum. A very special thanks to Colleen Sloan, Skip and Audrey, Will Ward and his son (apologize - can't remember the young man's name) for helping me break camp and getting me on the trail home.

Where the cowboy coffee is always hot.

30 March 2010

2010 IDOS World Championship Cook Off

It's been just over a week since Brian & Lisa Blodgett won the 2010 IDOS World Championship Cook Off with their Bacon-Herb Wrapped Pork Tenderloin, raspberry Pineapple Sweet Bread, and Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping. I'm here to tell ya friends, that was some good eatin. And, their competitors weren't far behind with some stick-to-yer-ribs dishes. If I'm not mistaken there were only a couple of points between 1st and 2nd and 5 points between 1st and last. That should tell ya how good these cooks really are. Oh, that shady lookin' hombre in the picture with Brian and Lisa has been identified as Ranes Carter, this years (and last's) WCCO organizer. What a great job he did. Much of the WCCO succes goes to Ranes.  He can trail with my outfit anytime. For more pics of the finalists and their dishes check out: WCCO Finalists and their Dishes.
Here are the pics of Brian & Lisa's winning dishes.

Now, if yer a wantin' to see a dynamite photo show take a look at this one: 2010 IDOS DUTCH OVEN Cook-Off created by Dee McMillan. Thanks Dee!

OK, it's that time again. After looking at all those terrific dishes and thumbing through the WCCO cookbook I decided to share something simple that I remembered from scouting.

For a fun and tasty dinner, try this dish that uses onions as the cooking container. And don't wait until you go camping; you can cook this at home in the coals from your living room fireplace.
You'll need the following ingredients and supplies:
  • 3 large onions
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) of dry mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Place the ground beef, egg, mustard and salt and pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl. On a cutting board, slice the onions in half horizontally. Coax the center sections out of the onion, leaving each half with two to three outer layers, or about 1/2-inch (13-millimeter) thickness, intact. Set these shells aside; they'll be your baking dishes. On the cutting board, chop the onion centers and add them to the other ingredients in the mixing bowl. Work these ingredients together until they're well-mixed.
Spoon the hamburger mix into the bottom half of each pair, mounding the mixture into a rounded ball above the edge. Cover the hamburger mound with the other half of the onion. 

Now, I first learned this as a foil dinner meal and wrapped the finished onion in foil and threw the thing in the camp fire. For the DO try skewering the two onion half's with toothpicks. 
Place each pair of onion halves in the Dutch oven. Bake at a medium heat for about 30 minutes. The temperature at the center of the concoction should not be less than 155 degrees. Remove the onions from the oven and allow to cool until they can be handled. The onion half's might still be hot so be careful when separating. As always, experiment with spices and different ground meats. 

29 March 2010

Way too Busy & too Far Away from Home

Well pards, yet again my day-time job has interfered with my real passion, specifically, subjecting all ya'll to my ramblin's but a few of ya to my trail grub. So, what have I been up to?

My job took me to Alexandria, VA for 3 weeks of excruciating management training. I will say it was valuable, just long. So, while I was at the Learning Tree training facility I had the privilege to meet two lovely ladies who run the facility who also have a passion for cooking. We got to talking and, of course, I brought up the subject of Dutch ovens. I kind of got a blank stare. Well, what an opening for me. They probably got more info about DO's then they really cared for. But, I did turn them on to the IDOS site and ordered them the IDOS World Championship Cook Off cookbooks.

While I was there I had the opportunity to frequent the local pizzeria, Pizzeria Venti, for a long-neck and some pretty dadgum good meatballs. I was also introduced to the owner as a Dutch oven cook from Utah and she mistook that too mean she had a chef in her presence. Well, I corrected that misconception quickly indicating that I was just an 'ol simple chuck wagon cook and I don't have any of that fancification training.   It turns out that this same eatery delivered our lunch to us during the training. Val, the owner, is a wonderful lady who runs the place with her hubby. Can't believe I didn't get a picture with her. Well, being the wonderful magnanimous guy that I am (heh!) I jotted down a recipe on the back of the lunch order that was faxed over. I learned she'd be processing the orders. Well, that turned into an exchange of 3 recipes during the last week. So, work didn't take the cookin' part away totally.

Now, if these ladies are watching here's a heads up. I'll be back in July and I just might have a surprise fer ya'll.

So, recipe time. Here's some grub recommended by my friends in Texas

Armadillo Eggs

2 Eggs
6-oz pkg Pork "Shake and Bake"
½ lb pork sausage (Crumbled)
1 cup (8-oz) grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cup Bisquick mix
1 cup (8-oz) Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 26-oz can seeded jalapeños, whole

Preheat your DO (or kitchen oven) to 350º F
Beat the eggs and put aside.   Place the pork-coating mix in a small bowl and set aside.
Fry up the sausage and crumble.  (Wait till it cools a bit before you crumble it, hot sausage will burn your fingers.)
Mix the cheddar cheese, sausage, and Bisquick together.  Using a rolling pin, flatten the mixture until its about ¾ of an inch thick.
Stuff the Monterey Jack cheese into the jalapeño peppers.  Wrap each pepper in the Bisquick mixture.  Using your hands, roll each pepper into and egg shape.  Dip each armadillo egg into the beaten eggs, then roll in the pork-coating mix.
Arrange the armadillo eggs in the DO (or on a cookie sheet if in your kitchen oven) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp.

15 February 2010

Black Pots and New Homes

This past weekend I had the absolute pleasure to travel down to Hurricane, UT, just outside of Zion National Part and help out a black pot caterer, my friend Crazy Richard Christensen and his lovely bride Ann. Crazy Richard picked up a gig with a new home developer who was participating in an area Parade of Homes show. This particular developer has an incredible area that includes a panoramic view of the mountain around Zion National Park. Every single home has been designed to blend with the natural landscape and no cookie-cutters - every single home will be unique.

OK, enough of that, let's talk about what we did. Crazy Ricard was asked to set up a Dutch Oven menu that could feed, well, a bunch. We had no idea how many people would be floating through the model home and the giant tent display that that demonstrated all of the features and opportunities the new community provided. The first thing the visitors ran into when they exited the model home and entered the tent was Crazy Richard and yours truly, Splatterdab. The first comments we heard were, "We couldn't wait to get outside to see what was cooking. The aroma was filling the house." For the kiddies and those wanting a quick bite we had dogs and burgers going on a Camp Chief griddle placed on top of a Camp Chef gas stove. For the black pot dishes we had Cowboy Beans, Dutch Oven 'Taters, and to top it all off Crazy Richard crafted some cobblers that were a definite hit. I had one lady take a bite of a slice and before she finished it she asked if she could buy the whole danged cobbler. Made a few bucks on that one I'll tell ya. Of course, in my humble opinion, what really crowned it all was Splatterdab's own Cowboy Coffee. I used the basic recipe I talked about in an earlier post. Well, I'm here to tell ya, that got folks attention and they kept comin' back for more.

I'm guessing that in the two full days I was there we served over 500 visitors, maybe more. They came from all over, San Diego, Las Vegas, Idaho, Phoenix, Denver and other places outside of Utah. Because we didn't know how many would be comin' the key to success here was keeping it simple and keeping it fast. Crazy Richard's menu reflected this necessity. So, that prompted him to offer up the Cowboy Beans, Dutch Oven Potatoes, and cobbler which was actually what many of us know as a dump cake. On arrival at the site in the morning, I got to work brewing the cowboy coffee in an 'ol graniteware coffee pot while Crazy Richard set up preparing the cobblers. I then immediately got to work on the beans and "taters once I got my instructions from Crazy Richard. After all, we was the chief coussie at this affair and I've learned that only a damned fool will argue with a skunk, a woman, or a chuck wagon cook. So, I followed his directions to the T.

As I have promised, each of these posts come with a recipe of some sort so here it goes for what Richard cooked up. By the way, Crazy Richard did this just like the cooks did on the trail - weren't no measuring cups or the like, just use yer own judgment. A heapin' handful here a pacel there. Though the best one was Just fill 'er up?. We were using 14 deeps for the beans and 'taters.

Cowboy Beans
In a medium hot oven fry up some sausage. Once the sausage browns throw in a good amount of diced red, yellow, and green bell peppers and a pacel full of onions. For the beans we used what was handy - pintos, kidney, black, and garbanzos. You want to use enough to almost fill the pot. add water. Bring up the heat so that it begins to bubble but then adust it down so that it starts a slow simmer and let her go. Longer the better. But, we only had about 3 hours before the event got started but that was plenty. Besides, they got better as the day progressed. About 30 to 45 minutes before serving Crazy Richard threw in a couple cans of chunky pineapple. So, this really was a sweet bean concoction rather than a spicy bean mix. If your beans are too thin, sort of soupy, you can do what Crazy Richard did and add about half a large can of Rosarita's Refried Beans. I was skeptical but it worked just fine.

Dutch Oven 'Taters  
Dice up some bacon so that it covers the bottom of the pot. Once the bacon starts to get crispy throw in a couple or 3 handfuls of onions. Pile on some sliced potatoes, enough to nearly fill the pot. We sliced the potatoes the night before and stored them in a bucket covered with water and sealed with a lid. Add salt and pepper to taste and finish off with a smattering of garlic then give it all a real good stir. Over a medium heat and stirring occasionally this should be ready in 35 - 40 minutes. Mind you, this was in a 14 deep so it won't take as long in a 12 regular. Once the steam starts coming out from under the lid you'll know it's ready to serve up. In one day we went trough 4 full pots of these 'taters.

Cobbler (Dump Cake)
This is your basic cobbler that, for many of us, was our first dish cooked in a Dutch oven. As I said, Crazy Richard chose this one because it's simple and he could keep knocking this delicious desserts as needed. So, thorw in some canned fruit filling of your choice. Richard did apple, peach, and cherry, On one I think he combine apple and peach. Next, dump in a box of cake mix. For apple, peach, or pear use a white or yellow cake mix. For cherries, use a chocolate cake mix. Then pour in some soda pop. For the peach, pear, or apple, use 7-Up, Sprite, or similar soda that suits yer fancy. Do not completely mix the ingredients. Just cut through it very lightly a could of passes if that. The natural bubbling that occurs during the baking process in a Dutch oven will mix the ingredients sufficiently. Depending on the weather, this could take around 45 - 60 minutes. About every 15 minutes use a lid lifter to turn the lid 1/4 turn (do not lift the lid off the pot). Also use the lid lifter and lift the entire pot by the bail and turn 1/4 of a turn over the coals. This will help to prevent getting hot spots and reduce the risk of burning. The idea is to have a nice evenly browned cake.

That's it. I really want to thank Crazy Richard and Ann for letting me be a part of their catering event this past weekend. The drive down from Utah was great, since it was my first time going to the St. George area. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the country and best of all, I met new friends, had great food, and had fun.

04 February 2010

An Ol' Sourdough Talks about Sourdough

First, you need to know to always take care of your sourdough. It requires care and feeding. The Ol' coussies were known to even tuck their sourdough in their bed role with themselves at night to keep it warm. So, what's up here? Did these Ol' coots have some sort of warped relationship with this stuff. Well, it is a living organism - sort of. But, no, these guys were not slipping off the ol' rocker.

Historically, sourdough has been around for centuries. and referred to by different names. The name Sourdough is a recent name, considering how long this stuff has been around. It came about, so I've been told, when a French family moved to San Francisco and opened a bakery n 1849. They promptly began preparing bread with this culture that was popular and well known in Europe. In 1848, miners began flocking to San Francisco as it was the port of entry on their way to the California gold fields. Once Boudin opened up in 1849 the miners, as well as the locals, found this bread so desirable that the Boudin Bakery became the premier bakery in San Francisco and is still in business today. The miners flocked to this bakery every morning for this special tasting bread. Since 1849 Boudin's have been using the same sourdough culture, which they call a "Mother Dough" and the same recipe. It was called the "Mother Dough" because in 1906 Louise Boudin saved the original starter in a bucket during the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

The Boudin family discovered that their culture produced a bread with unique characteristics that they didn't have back in France. Must have been somethin' in the air. Well, that's exactly correct, there was. No matter what part of the world where sourdough starter is made the flavor will be unique. This is because of the wild yeast found in the air. In each geographic area the composition of the wild yeast will be dependent on the unique environmental conditions. In the San Francisco area the bacteria found is such that it creates the unique aroma and distinct tangy flavor we know as San Francisco sourdough. But, the credit goes to the Boudin's.

So, why was this so important to the chuck wagon cook? It's all got to do with the rise or what the old timer's called proofing. All ya'll might also know it as the leavening process. Without a concoction that allows the bread to raise the ol' coussie would have been restricted to making flat breads (to be read tortillas) which the cowboys might tire of over time. Although baker's yeast was available during the last quarter of the 19th century it was expensive and not readily available on the trail. So, enter sourdough.Sourdough, when used in bread and other dough based recipes, lowers the pH level of the dough, causing the starch to partially gelatinize, and enabling it to retain gas bubbles. It was much easier for the coussie to mix a batch of sourdough starter and keep it feed thereby making it generally available whenever he needed it.

Alright, recipe time. If you ask a sourdough purist, this recipe would be called cheatin' 'cause it uses yeast. I call it makin' a starter in 24 hours.

Splatterdab's Overnight Sourdough Starter

cups warm water
1 1/4
teaspoons yeast
cups flour

Mix the yeast in the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Place the flour in a large plastic, glass, or crock bowl or container. Stir the liquid into the flour and mix well. It should be the consistency of a slightly thick pancake batter.
Cover container with a towel or plastic wrap but make sure the mixture can breathe. Allow to stand in a warm place for at least 12 hours or more. Make sure your container is deep enough because the yeast will cause the mixture to raise. If the starter gets too close to the top of the container just stir it down.

Use whatever is called for in the recipe yer usin' but make sure to feed it. That means that if the recipe calls for 1 cup of starter then make sure you replenish it with equal amounts of flour and water.
If you keep it fed it will serve a bunch and it will get better with age - kinda like your ol' Splatterdab here. Oh yeah, don't forget, if it gets really chilly at night you can keep your sourdough warm and alive by tuckin' it in the bed roll with ya.


29 January 2010

Back in the Saddle - Let's Talk About Cowboy Coffee

I have been remiss in my posts and need to get back in the saddle. My somewhat lengthy stay in California and getting back into the swing of things at work took me away from what I really love doing  and that's working from the back of the chuck wagon.

So, since this is a new year, uh-oh - just looked at the calendar and it's the end of January already, I want to start out fresh and fresh starts always calls for a good cup of coffee. That's what I'll ramble on about today. But, before I get into the details I've decided to form a new society - THE C. C. D SOCIETY or The Cowboy Coffee Drinkers Society or CCDS (I just thought this up so I'll make up the rules as I go). Since the real recipe for Cowboy Coffee, herein referred to as C.C, has been a closely guarded secret one of the objectives of the CCDS will be to spread the C.C word and provide it to the world. So here goes:

Throw 4 pounds of coffee into one gallon of water. Put the can or pot on an open fire. Ah rule time. If it an't on an open fire, it ain't C.C! Stir violently with a stick until the grounds are wet. Bring the mixture to a boil.  You will know it's done after the coffee sinks to the bottom and when you throw in a horseshoe or length of lead pipe and it floats. If it sinks, it's not C.C. Being to weak, it is relegated to class of tin-horn, wanabe C. C. coffee.

OK, OK, rule time again. Those bona fide and installed members of the CCDS are hereby authorized to modify the official CCDS recipe with the stipulation that they provide the alternate recipe for publication.

Now that the current membership has voted on the rule changes (I polled myself as I am the only member at this time) I am posting this modified recipe.

Throw a large handful of coffee into a 140 year old graniteware coffee pot, hanging from fire irons over an open fire, and 1 gallon of water. Boil. Move over lower heat coals. Pour a couple spoonfuls of cold water down the spout. This will help the grounds sink to the bottom of the pot.  Rule time yet again. First man at the pot is obligated to serve others waiting on a cup. Any CCDS member around the campfire may, in a loud voice, proclaim, "MAN AT THE POT". The man at the pot is also obligated to serve others waiting on a cup.

Additional CCDS rules ideas:
1. Every member is President
2. The President can call for a vote on any matter, at any time.
3. A quorum will consist of any odd number of members present - 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. The odd number being specified so as to prevent a tie and any tussles that might happen around the camp. I hate it when I have to pull out the ol' hog-leg to settle arguments.

So it begins. Let's see how the membership grows.

As far as I can tell one of the most popular brands of coffee during the time of the great cattle drives was Arbuckles'.

In 1865, John Arbuckle and his brother Charles, partners in a Pittsburgh grocery business, changed all this by patenting a process for roasting and coating coffee beans with an egg and sugar glaze to seal in the flavor and aroma. Prior to this, coosies had to roast green coffee beans themselves. Marketed under the name ARBUCKLES' ARIOSA COFFEE, in patented, airtight, one pound packages, the new coffee was an instant success with chuck wagon cooks in the west faced with the task of keeping Cowboys supplied with plenty of hot coffee out on the range (from http://www.arbucklecoffee.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=ACR&Category_Code=AL).

What was interesting about Arbuckles' is that they packaged the roasted beans with a coupon for future merchandise purchases but the really neat part is that each one-pound package came with a stick of peppermint. Didn't have any problems finding a cowboy to help grind the beans.

Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht-vD7a_7To
OK, CCDS business: I move that the song, "Arbuckles' Coffee in an ol' Tin Can" be made the official song of CCDS. Do I hear a second? I second. any discussion? Nope. There being no objections, the motion passes. 

More later,

06 January 2010

California for the Holidays

I hopped a plane and headed west to be with family over the holidays. Now, let me tell you, I really love Dutch oven cooking outdoors. And, the weather where I am in CA is not bad so, I was thinking what a great time to try out some new recipes. Oh yeah, I do keep a couple of black pots and a fire table at my family's place out here. The problem is my Mom-in-Law. I love her dearly but she is just not into this idea of cooking outdoors over hot coals when there's a perfectly good kitchin to use inside. So, bribery is in order.

It's the holidays I really like's pumkin pie. But, I want to try something a little less traditional. A friend of mine pointed me to a recipe that he got off of the Internet somewhere and said was worth sharing. It's pumpkin cake with a coconut cream topping. Since my wife and Mom love coconut here goes:

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 cup milk

1 2/3 cups coconut
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon milk
1 t vanilla extract


In a large bowl, combine cake ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth

Preheat Dutch oven to 350°. Coat lightly with canola oil.

Pour cake batter into into Dutch oven. Bake 35-45 minutes, or til a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Tip: You can use parchment paper or aluminum Dutch oven inserts. But the Dutch oven purists (who I tend to pay attention to) will tell you that if your oven is well seasoned the cake shouldn't stick. Do what works best for you.

Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring til blended. Simmer about 1 minute, or til thickened. Spread the topping over the warm cake. Let rest at least an hour before slicing.

A little Chuckwagon History

In my last post and in my profile I mentioned my chuck wagon. So, for those not in the Great State of Texas or those areas near where the cattle drives took place in the last quarter of the 19th century here's a little history. Mind you, I'm not a degreed historian, just an ol' cook with an interest.

At the end of the Civil war (or the War of Northern Aggression for my friends in the South) the economy in Texas, as well as the other southern states, was a wreck. In Texas, most of the cattle were scattered. One enterprising Texan, Charles Goodnight, who was a scout for the Confederate Army, came back and understood the opportunity that lay ahead. But, only if he could round up the cattle and drive them to the established markets in the north. Without going into how he pulled this off and wound up building one of the largest and most productive cattle ranches in Texas, one of the things he did was buy a used Army Studebaker wagon and modified it to include a chuck box that provided a complete trail kitchen. He understood that an Army traveled on it's stomach. So did an outfit driving cattle. The chuck wagon became the kitchen as well as the camp HQ and gathering point. Don't know about you but my kitchen in the house is also the social hub. It was the same back on the trail drives.

A good coosie, an Americanization of the Spanish cocinero or cook, was a valued resource who's pay was only 2nd to that of the trail boss. In fact, if the trail boss was out it was the coosie who would wind up in charge. He was the cook, doctor, dentist, teacher and arbiter of camp arguments.

There were three meals a day usually - breakfast, dinner, and supper. Breakfast and supper were somewhat substantial assuming the chuck in the wagon was available. There were times when a cowboy might only get away with some warmed up gun wadding, biscuits from the night before. Of course these instances did not indear a cook to the outfit. But, a cowboy had to be careful about criticizing the cook. No telling what might wind up in his grub. Worse, the complainer might very well be called on to assume cook duties if anything happened to the coosie. The dinner meal was usually fast as the herd was on the move. Coosie would get ahead of the herd far enough to set up a quick camp and get a meal of biscuits and beans prepared.

As you can guess, the day for ol' coosie started before sun up and went pretty much non-stop until after the supper was served, cleaned up and he was able to role and light up his last fixin's of the day before undressing up and hitting the bed role.

Well, there's so much more I could talk about but it's recipe time. The supper meal was quick on the trail. Here's an old recipe for Skillet Bread. It's done in a cast iron skillet over a heat source providing a medium heat.

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup lard (that's what they used back then or even salt pork or bacon grease. You can substitute with vegetable oil)

Mix flour, sourdough and lard (hehehe) in a large bowl. Do not overmix. Gently knead the dough in the bowl until it forms a ball. The dough should remain sticky. Tip: do this with your hands floured. Grease up a cast iron 8 - 9 inch skillet and set over a medium heat. Pat the dough into the skillet.

Let the dough cook until it starts browning in spots on the bottom - 8 to 10 minutes. Use an appropriate tool to lift the bread onto a plate. Turn it back into the skillet so the top side is now on the bottom of the skillet and continue to cook another 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the finished bread out onto a plate and serve up in wedges. This will serve maybe 8 but I've seen 4 hungry cowboys make quick work of one skillet of this stuff.

Once your happy with the basic recipe I encourage you to experiment with fillings or spices such as sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg or whatever's handy. That's they way the ol' coosies did it.

See ya down the trail.